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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maple Syrup and More

While we were on Cape Cod, I bought a new cookbook called Cranberry Cooking for All Seasons.  Not only do we love cranberries, but the intro is a wonderful history of the cranberry in New England.  I had a bag of cranberries to use up.  Ditto several butternut squash and some chicken breasts.  I found a recipe for stuffed acorn squash and thought it'd be good done with a baby butternut.  It was.  We gave it a five.  I hunted thru the chicken recipes I've clipped and found one that went perfectly - chicken breasts glazed with a mix of fresh ginger, soy sauce and maple syrup.  Last, but not least, I just bought the new Ina Garten cookbook.  It's called Back to Basics and has her typical scrumptious fare plus gorgeous photos.  I thought I'd seen a salad I liked when I read the cookbook.  Right.  Not only was it there, it also has maple syrup in the dressing.  Perfect.

Glazed Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c maple syrup (shagbark hickory would work as well)
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
sprinkle of cayenne

I used the skillet in which I'd browned the bacon for the salad.  The fond undoubtedly added to the depth of flavor in the glaze.  Brown the breasts on both sides.  When they're within about 10 min of being done, pour the glaze over them.  Baste them with the glaze every minute or so. 

Butternut Squash stuffed with Cranberries

1 very small butternut squash
1/3 c chopped pecans
1/2 c chopped fresh cranberries
2 tbs brown sugar
1/4 c melted butter
1/4 c orange marmalade
sprinkle of cinnamon.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds.  Bake cut side down for 15 min at 350.  Turn the squash over and stuff them with the filling.  Bake for another 15 min.

Cooking on Cape Cod

After a LONG day of travel, we finally got back from Cape Cod last night.  I love going out there to see Greg and Matt and their girlfriends, Mary and Jessie.  But, cooking in Auntie Barbara's kitchen is a bit challenging.  Over the years I've added critical items like a grater.  But, there are still a LOT of items missing.  Like, knives that really cut.  And, soup spoons.  And a grabber that's not in two parts...  So, I consider it to be kind of like camping.  We started with the kids favorite meal - Chicken Caesar Lasagna.  It's easy to make and is a family favorite.

Chicken Caesar Lasagna
one rotisserie chicken
1 or 2 jars alfredo sauce
1 or 2 packages frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 jar roasted red peppers, chopped
1 tbs lemon juice
9 lasagna noodles
1 pkg grated 5 Italian cheese

Boil the lasagna noodles.  While they're boiling, pick the meat off the chicken.  Mix it with the sauce, spinach, roasted red peppers and lemon juice.  Schmear a bit of the sauce mix on the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish.  Lay 3 lasagna noodles over that.  Top with 1/3 of the sauce mix, followed by 3 more lasagna noodles, and so on until you have three layers.  Bake at 350 for 45 min.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake for another 15 min.

The next night we wound up at our favorite pub to watch our Colts and have dinner.  Captain Parker's has won all kinds of clam chowder cook-offs.  We started with cups of that, of course.  I had a little piece of the best prime rib I think I've ever had.  Tender, flavorful, juicy.  Perfect.  Turns out the Captain was there and wandered in to say hello.  He wound up giving us a couple of their mugs as mementos.

Friday, we wandered toward Sandwich (the quintessential New England town) stopping at various galleries and book stores and shops.  I was on the hunt for a couple more Christmas presents and some stocking stuffers.  Found them!  On the way we saw a sign for LOBSTERS.  So, we found it on the way back and meandered up the driveway.  Turns out the guy has a tank on his front porch packed with lobsters he caught that day.  YUM!  The "tree" in the front yard was a mountain of lobster pots strung with lights.

Saturday we had glop and roasted broccoli.  Another family favorite with a newbie - to them at least.  It's the 4th time we've made the roasted broccoli in a month!

What a name for a dish.  This started when I was in 8th grade cooking class.  We made a dish with macaroni, tomato juice, hamburger and cheese.  Over the years, I've tweaked the recipe more than a bit. 

1 lb ground round
1/4 c Andria's steak sauce (believe me - this is the best - order it online)
1 package Kraft mac and cheese, prepared according to directions
1 can diced tomatoes with their juice
2 tsp basil
10 oz Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar, grated

Brown the ground round with the Andria's.  Drain the liquid into a fat strainer and pour the good stuff back in.  Mix everything else in and enjoy!

Sunday was Lou's Barbecue Beef, Jane's rice and clean up the kitchen for five salad.  Lou's BBQ Beef was in the 10/26/09 post.  Jane's rice was what we always had as kids with fried chicken livers.  That was a huge treat - still is. But, now, I fix Jane's rice with lots of different things.  It's kind of a haphazard recipe - no specific instructions.  You'll wind up with about 3 cups of rice so you'll want to start with about a cup of uncooked rice.  Uncle Ben's converted is the best.  Take a measuring cup if you're more comfortable using that to determine the amount of liquid.  I've done this one so long that I just eyeball it.  Drain a 4oz can of mushrooms - pieces and stems - into the measuring cup.  Add white wine for another 1/3 -1/2 of the liquid.  Then, use water for the rest.  Dump the liquid, rice, a package of dry onion soup mix and the mushrooms in your saucepan and cook until the rice is done.  If it starts to get too dry, pour more wine or water in.  Chef's choice!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Elegant Dinner

When we prepare the beef tenderloins for the annual holiday party, there are always great trimmings.  We've never quite figured out what to call the piece that's about a pound or pound and a half that looks like a small roast.  We thought it was the chateaubriand but later read that that's a part of the big tenderloin.  At any rate, we had one of the pieces still frozen.  Since I'm still working on cleaning out the freezer, I decided the next three meals would be beef, swordfish and lamb chops.  Back in about 1984, I created a stuffing for lamb chops.  It's been my go-to recipe since then.  Last night, I decided to try stuffing the beef with the same.  Since I had a package of button mushrooms and another of portabellas - both of which needed to be used up - and since we're going to have lamb chops Monday night, it made sense to just make a big batch of stuffing.

Lamb Chop Stuffing
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped and sauteed
2 chicken livers, sauteed and chopped very finely
1/4 c chopped, cooked bacon
1 tsp thyme or tarragon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, very finely minced
1/2 c red wine, more if needed to keep the stuffing moist
2T shaved parmesan

Sautee the mushrooms until almost dry.  Add the onion and garlic and some of the wine if necessary.   Cook until the onion is softened.  Mix in the other ingredients and stir to combine.

Now, for those of you who run screaming from the room at the thought of liver, you can undoubtedly leave it out.  But, it really plays well with the other flavors and you cant' really tell it's there.  So, be brave, try the stuff.

Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce

1-2 lb piece of tenderloin
1 c stuffing (above)
2 T olive oil
1 T flour
2 t beef base
1 c red wine
1 T butter

Cut a pocket in the center of the tenderloin, leaving about an inch at either end.  Stuff the tenderloin with the stuffing and tie it in 3-4 places.  We use the cooking rubber bands.  They're so easy to use!  Heat your oven to 400.  Put the tenderloin in a baking dish or pan and roast it for 15 min.  Yes, I know you usually brown it first.  But, Cooks Illustrated just did an article on tenderloins and they found that it's better to brown it after roasting.  So, I tried it that way.  When the tenderloin comes out of the oven, start the olive oil.  Get it to the shimmering point in a heavy skillet.  Brown the tenderloin, being very careful not to cook it too long.  Remove the tenderloin from the skillet and put it aside to rest.  Tent aluminum foil over it to keep it warm.  Pour the pan drippings from roasting the beef into the olive oil.  There shouldn't be much  Add the flour to the olive oil and stir until the flour is cooked.  Pour in some red wine, stirring constantly.  Once that's thickened, add the beef base and the rest of the red wine.  Stir until it's thickened.  Add the butter last to give the sauce polish.  It'll change the color and texture and flavor.  Slice the tenderloin.  Put a puddle of sauce on each plate and lay a slice of tenderloin on the sauce.

Along with the beef, I made a variation of rosemary potatoes and Daddy's fried potatoes.  He always sliced the potatoes and fried them in bacon fat with salt and pepper as the seasoning.  I sliced them thinly and slowly cooked them in olive oil with salt, pepper, garlic and crushed rosemary to season.  They cooked for about an hour and a half and were perfect.  Some were crunchy, some were melt in your mouth soft.  YUM!

We also tried a mixture of cauliflower and asparagus roasted and drizzled with the lemon juice and soy sauce, then sprinkled with sesame seeds.  They were good but not as good as the broccoli was done the same way.

Last but not least, I made an onion herb focaccia bread.  New recipe and pretty easy.  Stretch refrigerated pizza dough out on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle some olive oil over it then rub it around to cover the entire surface.  Sprinkle it with sea salt (I grind mine,) crushed rosemary and a bit of red pepper flakes.  Set aside until puffy - about an hour.  Make dimples with your fingers.  Then sprinkle with very finely sliced red onion (about half of a medium one) and about 1/2 c shaved parmesan.    Bake for 17 min at 400.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Clean Out the Freezer for Two

We're trying to clean out the freezer so there's room for all the party food the first week of January. Gads, it's only a month away! Tonight I decided it was time to finish one of the last of the pork tenderloins. They'd been marinated in soy sauce, bourbon and brown sugar then grilled. I made the spicy cranberry sauce and warmed the tenderloins up in that. Then, made some couscous and tossed in a handful of dried cranberries as it was cooking. Alongside, I served broccoli with sesame seeds. That was fabulous. Absolutely a five! We gave the cranberry sauce and couscous a four. It was really good too, but could've used a bit more ginger flavor. Next time I'll try adding a bit of ground ginger.

Spicy Cranberry Sauce

One can jellied cranberry sauce
1 T country Dijon mustard
2 t soy sauce
1 T brown sugar
2 T finely minced crystallized ginger

Melt the cranberry sauce in a saucepan and add the other ingredients.

Roasted Broccoli with Sesame Seeds
Preheat oven to 450. Separate broccoli into florets. Put them in a baking dish that’s large enough to accommodate them without being crowded. Drizzle broccoli with olive oil. Roast until browned – about 20 minutes. Toss with a drizzle of soy sauce, a small splash of lemon juice and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

About a week ago I made some risotto. Trying to clean out the massive quantities of homemade chicken stock in the freezer... Since John Marvel doesn't get mushrooms at home and he was going to get to share the risotto, that was the flavoring. Now, risotto is one of those things I didn't even have until a few years ago. I loved it at first bite. It sounds pretty intimidating to make but is really quite easy. And, you can pretty much put in anything as long as you've got the wine, stock and onion.

Mushroom Risotto

Heat 5 cups of good quality chicken stock. Saute 8 oz of mixed mushrooms (button, cremini, shitake...) in 3T of unsalted butter. Set them aside. Saute one small onion, diced, in 2 T butter and 1T olive oil. Add 1 1/2 c Arborio rice and stir until slightly golden. Add 1/2 c dry white wine. Once it's absorbed, add the stock 1/2 c at a time, stirring frequently. Once the rice is creamy and the stock has been absorbed, add 1/2 c grated romano cheese, about 2t of white truffle oil (optional,) salt and pepper and the reserved mushrooms. Serve with more grated romano.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Couple of homeruns for dinner tonight. We had some leftover chicken breasts so I pulled the poultry file. Chose the first 16 that appealed. Gave the stack to Connie and he picked his top 8. I went in and picked my top 4 of the 8. He declined to choose any further so I picked tonight's winner. Made a bunch of changes...

Chicken Breasts with Lemon Olive Sauce
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Penzey's Tsardust
1/4 c olive oil
1 c chicken broth
3/4 c white wine
1 T corn starch
1 T roasted garlic
2 T Penzey's freeze dried shallots
1 c TJ's cracked green olives, pitted and chopped

Sprinkle the chicken with Tsardust (cinnamon, garlic, marjoram and some other herbs and spices) Broil or grill them. (I used a grill pan.) While the chicken is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken broth and part of the wine. Put the corn starch in a bowl and mix in enough of the wine to create a slurry. Mix that into the sauce mixture. Add the garlic, shallots and olives. Stir until thickened. Add the cooked chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Cook garlic/olive oil couscous (takes 5 min once the water is boiling) and serve with the chicken and sauce.

Garlic Vegetable Salad
We made Melissa's carrots (Melissa D'Arabian - glazed carrots and Ina Garten's Broccoli with Garlic and Soy Sauce for a party last weekend. I took the leftovers and dumped them on a bed of lettuce then took Ina's sauce idea and created a salad dressing from it. A good spoonful of crushed garlic, a splash of lemon juice, a good pour of soy sauce and some evoo.

We gave both of these a 5 out of 5 and would happily have them again tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

We almost lost my brother, John, last week. He collapsed while working out and fortunately two guys were there and knew cpr. Triple bypass. So, he's out of commission for several weeks. And, he's the primary cook. I spent the weekend cooking recipes from our kidhood so he'll have familiar stuff to eat and so Pam won't have to cook on top of everything else she's got to do. One of my favorite recipes is

Lou's Barbecue Beef. You take about a pound of stew beef and cut it in smaller pieces. Brown it well in olive oil. Pour in a 46 oz can of low-sodium beef broth, about 1/4 c- 1/3 c ketchup, a couple of tablespoons of mustard, a couple of cloves of finely minced garlic and a good dash of Worcestershire sauce. Let it cook on medium-low heat until the meat is very well done. Toss in a large onion cut in pieces, an 8 oz package of mushrooms sliced and a green pepper cut in 1" pieces. Let it all cook until the vegetables are very well done. Great served over brown rice and better if you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight then reheat it.

Tonight we were back to "normal." Had rigatoni with mushroom pesto, leftover salad fixings from last night and a wonderful new broccoli dish:
Broccoli with Lemon Crumbs
One head broccoli, cut into florets.
1 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced (I use Penzey's dried shallots)
1/3 c panko
1 tsp lemon peel
1 Tbs lemon juice

Melt the butter and stir in the garlic and shallot. Cook until they're all happy together. Toss in the panko and stir until they're browned. Add the lemon peel. While you're doing the bread crumbs, bring some water to a boil and toss in the broccoli. Cook until it's barely done. Drain and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve topped with the bread crumbs.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We've switched to the Broad Ripple Farmers Market. Too many vendors have left the Binford market - they're done for the season. We'll go back next week for the last weekend to stock up on Annie's lamb jerkey. Then, sometime this winter we'll have to find Terry to get another supply that'll last til the market starts up in the spring. We love the shagbark hickory syrup and the persimmon folks at Broad Ripple. But, my favorite has to be Jacquie's. They've got the BEST pestos ever. Last week we bought a container of mushroom/truffle oil pesto. This week they were out of that so we bought cilantro lime and asparagus. Since we'd munched away half of the mushroom pesto on Triscuits, I needed to re-create the recipe so we could have pasta with mushroom pesto. Fortunately, the ingredient list has to be in order of quantity. Good starting point. Mushrooms, pine nuts, olive oil, romano, garlic, truffle oil. Are the mushrooms roasted? Chopped and sauteed? Chopped and put in raw? Are the pine nuts raw or toasted? What are the actual measurements? The thought process was that mushrooms have a considerable amount of moisture so it's best to cook them in some way. I chose to chop them finely in the processor then saute them in olive oil (8 oz box buttons.) I didn't toast the pine nuts but probably will next time (1/3 c.) Added in about 2/3 c of finely shredded romano and a clove of garlic. Then, about 1T of truffle oil. Once all of that was nicely blended in the processor, I poured a stream of olive oil in until it had the right consistency. Mine was almost as good as Jacquie's. And, at about $4 for two times the quantity we bought, it was a LOT less expensive.

Along with the pesto and rigatoni, we had filets with gorgonzola mushroom sauce and butternut squash with fruit. The butternut squash was about half of a 2 lb squash. It was leftover from making autumn vegetable soup. I cubed the squash and tossed it with about 8 diced dried apricots and an equal number of diced prunes. Then, I made a sauce with about 2T of butter, 1 t curry powder, 1 T brown sugar, 2 t lemon juice and tossed everything with the sauce. I baked it at 400 for about 30 min. The apricot flavor was wonderful and the butternut squash tasted almost like candy. YUM!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shaved Steak Sandwiches

Every year when we host our holiday party Connie preps three of the beef tenderloins from Sam's club. He got on YouTube and found a video demonstrating the technique. After about eight of the tenderloins (also requested at family get-togethers) he's a real pro. We take the chain and make the best beef stew ever. The actual stew is ever changing depending on what we're hungry for. Then, there are the pieces we've called the Chateaubriand. Evidently, that's a misnomer because that cut is actually a part of the long tenderloin. At any rate, it's the piece that's up at the top and is semi-round. We've done all kinds of things with it - from beef wellington to beef roast. Last night I cleaned up the kitchen for two with it. I'd decided it was time to start using up some of the things from the freezer. We used a pork tenderloin earlier in the week so last night it was time for beef. I had 1/4 of a loaf of french bread, about 1/2 cup of black olive tapenade (from Todd English's The Olives Table cookbook) and a huge pile of arugula from the garden. Sandwiches it was. I brushed the bread with olive oil and broiled it until it was nice and brown. Then, I slathered on some of the tapenade. Connie sliced the beef very thinly (easier when it's partially frozen) and I quickly sauteed it in a bit of olive oil. I wanted it to stay rare. That was layered on the bread then was topped with a big handful of arugula and a handful of chopped artichoke hearts. We picked out a cheddar blue cheese to strew over the top then broiled the sandwiches just until the cheese was melted. Scrumptious!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friday evening was Girls Night Out at Joanie's new home. Since our ringleader, Shelly, moved to Phoenix, we've not been as faithful about getting together. Nor have our adventures been as well attended. This time was different. We were only missing a couple of gals and had two newbies. The group started over 15 years ago so we've had LOTS of time to really get to know each other. It's a wonderful group of women and I'm very lucky to be a part of it.

I took one of our favorites - Pimento Cheese. This is an old Southern favorite so I'm always a bit hesitant to share the recipe - being a true Northerner :-) But, we love the stuff and fix it on a regular basis. It's SO easy to make. Grate a 20 oz. bar of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar, toss in a 4 oz jar of pimentos, a good bit of dry mustard (I'd guess it's about 2t but could be as much as 1T) and a dollop of mayo (that's the real stuff, not the salad dressing called Miracle Whip.) Mix with your hands and serve with crackers. We prefer Triscuits but everyone's got their favorite cracker!

Joanie made a wonderful cream cheese and onion dip. You take several onions (looked like 2-3) and slice or chunk them. Sprinkle about a teaspoon each of salt and sugar on them. Toss in a couple of bay leaves. Saute them VERY slowly until they're caramelized. Then, pour over a bit of white wine and reduce it until the liquid is gone. Pour the onions over the softened cream cheese and serve with crackers. I think that one's going on the holiday party menu. It was spectacular.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Leftover Turkey Time

I supposed I'll get tired of the leftover turkey in a few days. But, not now! Lunches have been turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Connie introduced me to those when we spent Thanksgiving at his eldest son's house. That was the first Thanksgiving dinner Kara ever prepared on her own. Scientist that she is, she had everything timed to the minute. It was perfect! Tonight I made turkey tetrazzini. Now, don't get me wrong here. I love my sister-in-law and her family. They are still the pickiest eaters I've ever met. A speck of mushroom in a sauce will find it's way to the edge of the plate... Consequently, my brother is reduced to making pretty bland turkey tetrazzini. Not around here. I quartered then caramelized in a small amount of olive oil, a 16oz container of button mushrooms. In another pan I cooked a diced red bell pepper. When the mushrooms were done I scooped them out into a bowl and added more olive oil and some butter to that pan. Once the butter was melted, I sprinkled on a few tablespoons of flour. When it was nice and light brown, I poured in a good bit of sherry and added some water. Then, when the sauce was about done, I added some half and half. As everything else was cooking, I cooked a small box of whole grain thin spaghetti. When it was cooked and drained, I mixed the whole mess together and put it in a 9x13 pan. Topped it with a bit of finely grated romano cheese and baked it for 20 min at 350. YUM! Salad with Penzey's peppercorn dressing and tomatoes from the garden. Doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cooking Fool Redux

Back to last Sunday's cooking marathon...

We bought some chilies at the farmer's market for an interesting chilies rellenos recipe. It's very non-traditional. The recipe was originally published in Indianapolis Woman. We loved the fact they're not fried like most chiles rellenos. The flavors were perfect together. Best of all, I made this on Sunday and we baked it for lunch later in the week.

Chilies Rellenos
2 large chilies
1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese
2 eggs
1 Tbs flour
1/3 c milk
pinch salt
1 c grated cheddar cheese

Remove the seeds from the chilies. Stuff with slivers of the Monterey Jack cheese. Beat the eggs and add the flour and milk. Arrange the chilies in a greased baking dish and pour the egg mixture over them. Bake uncovered for 45 min at 350.

Next up was Heirloom Tomato Soup. I've eaten at R Bistro several times and have never had a bad meal. But, when I read this recipe I thought Regina had gone to a LOT of extra trouble for a simple tomato soup. Guess what? It's worth all the effort! I will say the tomatoes released so much moisture that they didn't roast to the degree I wanted. Next time, I'll roast the onions and garlic separately from the tomatoes. I'd also mix in the cream THEN add the brown sugar. Since the brown sugar is to lessen the acidity it's best to go in last.

R Bistro's Heirloom Tomato Soup

3 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, quartered
2 sweet onions, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 c olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup butter
basil leaves
brown sugar
1/4 c heavy cream or half and half

Heat the oven to 450. Wash, core and quarter the tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes with half of the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking pan. Toss the onions and garlic with the rest of the olive oil and spread them on another baking pan. Sprinkle both with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until they begin to caramelize.

Transfer the vegetables to a large pot. Add 1 cup chicken broth, the bay leaves and the butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by a third. Remove the bay leaves. Chiffonade about 6 basil leaves and add them.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender. It's fine either smooth or a bit chunky. Add additional chicken broth to obtain desired consistency. Stir in the cream. Add brown sugar as needed if the soup is too acidic. Garnish with a bit more cream and whole basil leaves.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Who doesn't love Thanksgiving in the middle of the year? Actually, I'm so very grateful for all I have that I feel like it's Thanksgiving daily. Today, though, we had Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the year. My brother, John, is the master of the turkey on the grill. I didn't feel like doing that but did feel like using his basting sauce recipe. With the turkey, I roasted some red potatoes and asparagus. Then, for dessert, a pumpkin fluff pie. Why? Well, there was an 8 oz pkg of lite philly that needed to be used up. And a can of pumpkin that was getting old. And, a container of triple ginger cookies that was going to be past it's prime soon. So, what's more Thanksgiving than pumpkin pie???

John's Turkey Baste
1 15 oz can jellied cranberry sauce, melted
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup butter

Melt the cranberry sauce then add the other ingredients and stir occasionaly until they're all liquified. Baste the turkey with the sauce. This makes for killer gravy.

Pumpkin Fluff Pie
8 oz light philly
15 oz can pumpkin
grated nutmeg
Lite Cool Whip
1/2 container Trader Joe's triple ginger cookies
1/2 butter

Beat the philly until soft and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and spices and beat again. Fold in the Cool Whip. Crush the cookies. Melt the butter and mix with the crushed cookies. Press into a pie plate. Mound the pumpkin mixture in the pie shell. Sprinkle a few cookie crumbs on top. Refrigerate.
My buddy George has kidney disease. He was diagnosed about 4 1/2 years ago. My vet prescribed twice weekly infusions and a special diet. I bought the expensive kidney food and he turned his kitty nose up. So I did some research and came up with a recipe for homemade food. Every quarter, our kitchen turns into cat food central. George is now 14 years old and holding his own. He hates getting stuck but loves his own food. Here's the recipe

16 chicken thighs, skin on with bones
6-8 chicken breasts, skin on with bones
3 lbs ground beef (80% lean)
3 20 oz packages chicken liver
5 lbs carrots
3 cups uncooked rice
6 15 oz cans peas
24 cat vitamins
3 Tbs calcium carbonate (this has to be ordered at a pharmacy)

Cook the chicken and carrots in water to cover. (nota bene: Once I take the chicken and carrots out, I put in celery, some onions and a lot of peppercorns and herbs then cook this down and make wonderful chicken broth) Brown the ground beef and the liver. Do not drain it. Cook the rice until it's mushy. Skin and bone the chicken. Toss the skin and put the bones back it the stock. Combine everything and put it through the food processor. Freeze in pint containers.
Saturday was errand day. Sam's Club, Trader Joe's, Penzey's, Porter Paint, Marsh... That meant it was time to rotate the pantry when we got home. Not my favorite job to do but I'll admit I love seeing everything neatly stacked when I'm done. When I got home I started sloppy joe's thinking they'd make a couple of great lunches next week. What I didn't count on was that the rotating of the pantry would turn into a mass cleaning out and I'd run out of time to fix dinner - or at least the energy to fix dinner! So, sloppy joe's to the rescue. This is a recipe from Mom. Supposedly it came from the Ayres tea room. I've not seen any reference to this on anything I've ever read about the tea room. So, who knows? The corn salad is a recipe I made up a couple of years ago. It's super easy. Best eaten within a day of preparation.

Sloppy Joe's
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion diced
1 medium green pepper diced
dry mustard (do NOT substitute any other kind!)
cider vinegar
dark brown sugar
worcestershire sauce

Brown the beef and vegetables. Drain really well. Add the other ingredients. Since I've been making this for so long, I use the eyeball method. Looks ok, taste and add whatever is missing... So, here's a guesstimate: 1/2 c ketchup, 2 tsp dry mustard, 1 T cider vinegar, 1 T dark brown sugar, 1 t worcestershire. Allow this to cook for about 30 min so the flavors blend. Adjust as desired. Serve on toasted buns. You might need to add a bit more ketchup if you reheat this.

Corn Salad
4 ears corn
4 oz jar pimento
1 sm red onion, finely diced
2 T robusto Italian dressing

Cook the corn and remove the kernels from the cob. Mix with the other ingredients and serve.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, I was a cooking fool. Started in the garden and collected dozens of ripe tomatoes. Then, it was on to the green beans. I'd identified several recipes to try and started in once Connie got back from the grocery store. He is the world's best sous chef. Keeps the dishes washed and all the stuff chopped. Ten hours later, we'd cooked our way through about a dozen recipes. Needless to say, this might be a long post :-)

Let's start with the canning. I only did the heirloom tomatoes. The mountain of romas is still sitting on the counter awaiting their fate. Yesterday, we had Cherokee Purple with their green shoulders. Black Krim. Black Brandywine. Lemon Boy. Pink Brandywine. Several whose names escape me. We'll pull the tags up and make sure we reorder most of them. The Black Brandywine's are absolutely the best tomato I've ever eaten. Took Mom a couple today when I went over to pick her up for an eye doctor's appointment. When I took them out of the bag she waxed euphoric about the first batch I took her. No wonder, they're the perfect balance of flavor, acidity, sweetness. YUMMMM! The drill is carving an "X" into the bottom of each tomato, dunking it in boiling water for a few seconds, moving it to an ice water bath, then removing the skin, coring it and chopping it. Those tomatoes that didn't work for canning in chunks were tossed into a large saucepan. I added onions (chopped,) a few cloves of roasted garlic, a couple of bay leaves, salt, pepper, fresh oregano, crushed red pepper, a smidge of sugar and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice (to adjust the Ph so the sauce was safe to can - make sure you read up on the rules if you're going to can the stuff!)

Next was tomato pickles. This inspiration for this recipe came from Herb Companion. We'll know if we like these in a couple of weeks!

4 large heirloom tomatoes, unpeeled, cut into 6ths
6 cloves roasted garlic, sliced
3/4 c basil leaves
3/4 c cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs kosher salt
1 1/2 c cold water
1 lime, juiced

Cut the tomatoes and put into three sterilized pint jars. Make sure they're no more than 75% full. Boil the vinegar and salt until the salt dissolves. Add the cold water and lime juice. On top of the tomatoes, stack the basil leaves. Pour the liquid over the tomatoes leaving adequate head room.
Next was corn relish. For once, I almost followed a recipe. This came from the McCormick's web site. Their recipe calls for adding cornstarch to thicken the relish. I didn't think it needed that so omitted that step.
Corn Relish
6 cups cooked corn (9-12 medium ears)
1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper (1 large)
1 cup diced green bell pepper (1 medium)
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Chop and mix the vegetables. Mix vinegar, sugar and seasonings in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Ladle into sterilized jars. Cover with lids and secure with rings. Will keep in the refrigerator for 3 months - although I doubt it'll last that long around us because this stuff is REALLY good!

Even though the recipes from Sunday aren't done I"m going ahead and publishing... More later :-)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smoked Trout

Smoked trout. Something I'd never thought to buy. Found it at Trader Joe's and thought why not? So, as I've been clipping recipes, I've clipped a few calling for smoked trout. It's now right up there with tuna fish as a necessity of the pantry. This morning we had a wonderful breakfast...

Open Faced Smoked Trout Sandwiches

2 slices hearty grain bread
4 Tbs Alouette, herb and garlic
1 tin Trader Joe's smoked trout, crumbled
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil

Toast the bread. Schmear the Alouette on the toast. Top with the smoked trout, then the onion. Toss the tomatoes with the salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve on the side.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eggplant and More Eggplant

We've got two eggplant plants and keep getting them from the csa. I've made ratatouille, fried eggplant, grilled eggplant... So, it was time to come up with something totally different. Eggplant and pasta. Thus was born Eggplant a la Medici.

Two small or one large eggplant, cubed. Do not peel them.
3 Tbs olive oil
3 crushed garlic cloves
1 tin flat anchovies
9 small tomatoes (roma works)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 Tbs. capers
1/2 ricotta cheese
1 chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 pound penne, cooked

Halve the tomatoes. Put them in a baking dish cut side up. Sprinkle with the sugar. Roast at 450 for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool and peel. Saute the eggplant in the olive oil. When it's close to done, add the garlic and the anchovies. Stir until the anchovies melt. Add the roasted tomatoes, olives, capers, chicken and ricotta. Serve tossed with penne and topped with fresh basil.

One of the other new and different ways I've cooked eggplant is involtini. Also known as rollatini. It's pretty easy and looks fabulous. And, yes, tastes as good as it looks. The measurements will depend on the size of the eggplant and how thinly you slice it.

One medium eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise
olive oil
2 eggs
finely shredded parmesan or romano
shredded mozzarella
tin of anchovies
jar of good pasta sauce (Rao's is my favorite), heated through.

Dip the eggplant slices in egg then in a mixture of panko and parmesan. Saute in olive oil. Blot with paper towels. Lay the slices out and sprinkle mozzarella on them - about 1-2 Tbs per slice. Top with an anchovy filet. Roll up and secure with a toothpick. Put the involtini in a baking dish and bake at 350 until the mozzarella melts. Serve on a puddle of pasta sauce.

Tomorrow we're having another new eggplant dish. I sent Connie to the basement to check for things we need to finish up. Red bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash. And, of course, eggplant. Oh, yes, a ton of tomatoes. I've made a stuffing for the peppers...

Eggplant & Lamb Stuffed Peppers
4 red bell peppers
2 ground lamb patties
1/2 cup brown rice
3 large tomatoes
1 medium eggplant
1 Tbs. olive oil

Hollow out the bell peppers and set aside. Crumble the lamb patties. Brown and drain the meat. Cook and drain the brown rice. Peel and cube the tomatoes. Cube the eggplant. Saute the eggplant in olive oil. When it's close to being done, pour in the tomatoes and cook until the juice has practically cooked away. Mix lamb, rice, eggplant and tomato. Stuff into the peppers.

Grilling Season

We've grilled out for the last 5-6 meals. Tonight was no exception. The weather's perfect - cool and sunny. The hummers are visiting their feeder right by the table on the screened porch. The fountain is burbling away. Perfect for grilling. We love the frozen fish from Trader Joe's. Corn from the farmer's market. Tomatoes and basil from our garden. Lots of herbs.

Grilled Swordfish
Two swordfish steaks
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tsp dijon mustard

Mix the marinade. Marinate the swordfish for about 90 minutes. Grill on medium heat for 4 minutes per side.

Herb Bread
6" piece French bread, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp lemon juice
4 shakes Tabasco
2 stems flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 stems tarragon, leaves removed from stem
10 chives, chopped

Mix the herbs, lemon juice and Tabasco into the softened butter. Toast the bread on the grill cut side down. Spread with the butter and put back on the grill cut side up until the butter melts into the bread.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


How many of you have actually eaten Moroccan food? We had a great restaurant here in Indy that closed about a year ago. One of the belly dancers was actually a physics professor in her real life. We've enjoyed the food every time we've had it, so I decided to try a bit of Moroccan cooking. Sunday evening was actually a mixed bag of Moroccan, Asian and American influence. The chicken breasts were rubbed with a brown sugar spice rub, the carrots were cooked with a spice mix, the eggplant was brushed with and Asian sauce and the potatoes were just plain American sinful!

For each chicken breast, I mixed about a tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander and garlic powder and some salt and pepper. I used skinless breasts but left the bones in because they stay more moist when they're cooked that way. They were baked at 400 for about 50 minutes. A couple of the bigger breasts weren't quite done at that point and needed a few minutes more. The breasts wound up with a hint of spiciness and a lovely almost crust. We rated these a "four" and have enjoyed the leftovers for lunches this week.

The carrots were inspired by Melissa D'Arabian's spiced carrots on I used the same brown sugar blend that I used for the chicken and mixed it with chicken broth, water and some cumin. Once the sauce cooked down to a glaze, they were ready. Her recipe called for adding lemon juice and parsely at the end but we skipped that step because we rated the recipe a "five" as it was.

Nota Bene:  We've made the carrots half a dozen times since then and I've used a really easy version. 

1 c carrot pieces
1 t cumin
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar

Cook the carrots in water til they're done.  Drain them and plop in the butter.  Once it's about melted, add the cumin and brown sugar.  Mix well and serve.

The eggplant was brushed with olive oil, sesame oil and grated ginger. It was relatively bland. I'd not make it again this way.

Melissa came through again with the potatoes. She made a potato torte on her first show. Instead of the double crust, I merely layered the potatoes in a pie plate and covered the "torte" with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking time. Then, the last 20 minutes I uncovered it to allow the top to brown. We rated this a "four."

The only dish that didn't "go" with the others was the potatoes. I just wanted to 1)try the recipe and 2)use up the rest of the CSA potatoes that looked so good.

Last evening was Devour Downtown at Dunaway's with some good friends. It was our first visit there and won't be our last. The food was very good and the service was also. Their building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Connie and I usually order two different dishes so we can split and share. But, he doesn't care for salmon and we've been eating chicken for several meals, so that left us with the beef on the Devour Downtown menu. Grilled shrimp over a mango salsa, caesar salad, grilled beef over corn salsa and a dessert sampler of creme brulee, caramel flan and chocolate souflee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Marion's Slices of Happiness

As Emeril says, "Pork fat rules." Particularly when mixed with cheese. My sister-in-law, Marion, is one of the BEST cooks around. She's a master of getting the flavors, textures, colors et al to mesh perfectly. She's a mom to two small kids and one grown-up kid (my brother, Matt.) Plus she works full-time. So, she's also had to master the yummy and quick dish. This is one of those. Mom, John (brother,) Tom (nephew) and I went down to their home last Thanksgiving. Marion served us these for breakfast one morning. Couldn't wait to fix them for Connie when I got home. The toughest part is learning where in the world your grocery store stocks the Old English cheese!

Marion's Slices of Happiness

2 sleeves of sausage or 2lb of freshly ground sausage
3 jars of Old English cheese
2 package of English muffins

Lay English muffin halves on a cookie sheet. Brown and drain the sausage. Stir in the cheese. (Nota bene: We always double the recipe so we can use three jars of Old English cheese.) Keep stirring until it melts. Remove the pot from the heat and schmear the mix on English muffin halves. Pop them in the freezer overnight. The next morning, stack them in the sleeve the muffins came in and pop everything back in the freezer.

When you need a slice of happiness, put it in the toaster oven on 350 for about 15-20 minutes. It is indeed a slice of happiness!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Julie and Julia - what an inspiration! Thus far, I've not boned a duck. But, Connie is requesting a turducken so that may be in the cards this year. Guess I'd be boning a turkey, a duck AND a chicken for that adventure.

This weekend has been another adventure in good eating. Saturday morning we picked our cooler up from the CSA at the Binford Farmers Market. It was loaded with lettuce, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, melon, herbs and corn on the cob. I got some additional corn on the cob and some blueberries while we were there. Connie was a bit disappointed that Terry Knudsen of Viking Lamb (the BEST lamb!) didn't bring the son he normally brings. That little fellow usually hits him up to buy some lamb jerky by saying, "Hey Mister, ya got a dog?" Connie's always ready with his five spot. And, Annie's certainly ready for her treats!

Late afternoon we took a bag and went shopping in our garden. Lots of tomatoes. We stood there and ate a perfect Black Brandywine. Juice was dripping down our chins. Now, Connie understands why I wanted that plant so badly. Two Asian eggplants. A handful of red-veined sorrel. Most of our green beans were pretty healthy sized so they're much more suited to longer cooking. But, there were some that were very thin - tasted almost like candy. I took four at a time and wrapped a small piece of salami around them. Then, while the corn on the cob and the eggplant toasties were grilling away, I grilled the beans. The salami got all crunchy and the beans about melted in our mouths. The eggplant toasties were slices of eggplant brushed with olive oil and grilled, then layered with chutney and slices of fresh mozzarella on whole grain bread. The outsides of the sandwiches were schmeared wtih butter before grilling. Then, when the cheese was all melty and gooey and the bread was toasty with gorgeous grill marks, I took the toasties off the grill and added tomato slices and a salad made with basil, arugula, olive oil, lemon juice and a scoosh of crushed garlic.

Sunday brunch was smoked trout and potato hash topped with poached eggs. The only thing that could have improved that dish was some hollandaise sauce. Alongside, tomatoes with a cheese topping. A bit of mozzarella, parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper mixed into Hellmans mayo then schmeared on 1/2" thick tomato slices and broiled until the tops were all brown and bubbly.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heirloom Tomato Season

The heirloom tomatoes are finally ripening. What fabulous eating! Tonight I steamed some green beans from the garden, chopped up some tomatoes (Black Krim and Pink Girl) and made a dressing with olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallots, dijon mustard, capers and fresh tarragon. Scrumptious!